learn from your competition, play on chalkboard football

How do the best football teams win week after week?

Part of their preparation is to watch hours of past games that their competition has played. They are ready and understand the movements, tactics, and game strategies that they will encounter on Sunday.

Similarly, as a business owner, you can learn a lot from watching your competition. Here are 4 ways to learn from them next week:

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1. Go Online

There are a bunch of tools available for free to monitor how businesses like yours are using social or search marketing.  If you use a social posting tool like Hootsuite or Oktopost, they have built-in reports or lists that allow you to monitor the performance and compare your company versus another.

Alternatively, you can gain a lot of visibility right from the different social platforms.

Twitter: By creating a private list, you can see how frequently and what type of content a competitor shares without alerting the company that you are watching.

Facebook: The “Insights” tab allows you to track a bunch of pages to show how you stack up in ‘likes’, engagement, and more. If you set a reminder to check this tab weekly, you can see how many posts they have done and even dig into the top posts and read the comments and details.

Search Marketing: Google Adwords has the “Auction Insights” tab which allows you to see who is bidding on the same keywords as you are as well as how frequently both of your companies appear in search results. If you want deeper insights, a tool like SEMRush can go much deeper into the performance, ad copy, and more.

2. Read Reviews

Not only can Yelp give you feedback about how your customers felt after their experience with your business, but it can also help you understand how your competitors are doing:

  • Do they have a lot of active customers?
  • Does it seem like their service is consistent across all of their employees?
  • Is there something that they have done that you should add into your experience?

Similar to Yelp, Google My Business has online reviews on their business pages that show up when you search for a company.

Beyond Yelp, the BBB can be a helpful, albeit more formal resource for your business to monitor. They have a listing of registered complaints as well as reviews. There are more formal guidelines for submission, so while there might be fewer reviews than Yelp or Google My Business, a BBB accreditation and review might have more details on an event and a resolution from the business.

3. Mystery Shop

‘Light on the reviews or did something pique your interest when you were looking at a competitor’s business? It never hurts to check out their class offering, instructors, or events. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you’ll be able to see what service or experience is working more easily. For instance, if you find yourself having a difficult time finding a class to attend, you might realize that you need to relook at the schedule you offer your own clients.

4. Talk to your customers or even the other business!

Many of your customers probably ‘shopped around’ before they found your business, or they even came from a competitor before they ended up with you. Ask some of your most loyal advocates what it was that differentiated your business from the others in the area, or how they ended up coming through your doors. You can store this information in your customer database in order to see if there are some commonalities when you run reports. Read this article to learn more ways to use your customer database to help grow your business.

Lost a few clients recently? Send them an anonymous survey through Survey Monkey or Google. If you make sure to keep it open ended, you will most definitely get some responses about things you might want to do differently in the future.

Finally, there is most likely room in your city or neighborhood for more than one business. Reach out to and get together with the other local business owners. They are probably struggling with the same types of issues you are and each can benefit from these shared experiences.

What other ways can your competitors help you? Let us know by putting ideas in the comments or tweet us at @PaySimple.

Kristin Piccirillo

Kristin Piccirillo

Kristin is the Director of Acquisition on the Marketing team at PaySimple responsible for the development, strategy and management of channels like Search, Display, and other acquisition initiatives. When she's not working 'on the google' she is probably skiing in the winter or running/biking crazy distances training for Triathlons and other endurance events. You can find her on Google+

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